AOC - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

AOC – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

A view with constituents in Queens, New York

Verve Personalities

I went to an event at the Langston Hughes Public Library in Queens at the invitation (general) of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.


Since she engineered a political upset of an entrenched and popular Democratic congressman in the Democratic primary, she has been a lightening rod of attraction and repulsion by those on the political left, and political right.As a Democratic primary winner in a landslide Democratic district of New York (NY-14), she wasn’t going to be seriously challenged by any Republican, so she proceeded to support Democrats running against Republicans in Congressional Districts nationwide.

With a high profile win, her youth (29), and her willingness to inject herself into discussions nationally, that impact both her local district, and the nation, she has become a target of attempted ridicule by Republican-led media and politicians as she has aggressively proposed a “Green New Deal,” a major reform of taxation, and immigration reform.In theory, these are not local issues, but obviously affect every locale. In theory, she should sit in a corner and be quiet, while her elders, and established party pols lead the fight.


Instead, local and national Right-leaning media, the New York Post newspaper, and FoxNews (national entertainment media) have dug into her past and excoriated her for dancing while she was in school at Boston University, not being seen in her district, and having too many ideas and proposals that (they say) are impractical or too upsetting to our society. (I differentiate that “they say” because no one can know how something will work, if it hasn’t been done – so the idea of excoriating someone for something that has neither succeeded or failed is, at heart, fallacious).


I went to see what the fuss was, and got much more than I anticipated.


The event was something organized by several local organizations: predominantly the News Story Circle and Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). Both organizations have specific interests in immigration issues, but the News Story Circle was recording and collecting the stories of immigration and advocates for the organization of mostly black immigrants to lobby for their concerns.The event was just getting started when I arrived late, and attendees were finding seats while Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, as they would refer to her, was still greeting and speaking to a few people. Apparently, she had been doing this for a short time. A range of people sat in chairs in a circle while other people were seated or standing around the central circle.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, took a seat in the circle, as one of perhaps 25 central people. The organizations moderators outlined their goals, and what they were expecting – that a microphone would go around the circle so that anyone seated (or later, others outside the circle) could define their experiences as immigrants, black Americans or other people of color.

The organizations’ leaders, began by reading an excerpt from Langston Hughes’ “Let America be America Again” which didn’t surprise me since we were on Langston Hughes Blvd. (a section of Northern Blvd. in Queens) and we were in the Langston Hughes library. Surprisingly, I had been carrying a book with that poem flagged when I arrived. The poem was written in 1935 but was surprising prescient in today’s world.

Starting on one side of the circle, Dominicans, Cubans, black Americans up from families in Southern states, Haitians, Colombians, Bengladeshis, Italians and Puerto Ricans told varying stories of growing up, going to school, animosities and friendships. When the microphone rotated to Ocasio-Cortez, she dutifully took her three minutes of time to relate growing up Puerto Rican in New York, and how her mixed background (almost all Latinos in America have some mixed heritage from runaway slaves, Spanish conquerors, indigenous people from islands and Latin America) guided, influenced and nurtured her to where she was at present.When she took the microphone, she was surprisingly shy about speaking about herself. When she defined the neighborhoods in Queens and the Bronx where she was raised, she, like many others, referred to local schools, buildings, places that varying people knew. She didn’t expound into other areas, and when she finished, she handed the microphone to the next person in the circle. Several people, in speaking, referred to her with pride and gratitude for bringing attention to their little slice of America. A few mentioned her public statements and stances, but all worked hard to follow the rules.There were stories by speakers of being assaulted and doubted by police in upstate universities, growing up gay and Dominican in Washington Heights and growing up politically active in parts of the Bronx or in Queens. She listened to all stories with care.

What did I see with this national lightening rod? Surprisingly, I saw a small, energetic woman who actually paid attention to the people in front of her. She listened without succumbing to distraction, looked at speakers, focused on what they were saying. She laughed with them when they were deprecating, was embarrassed when they praised her, and when the event was over, spent almost another hour, greeting, one-by-one, people who knew her, knew people she knew, just wanted a selfies with her, and just wanted thank or hug her. I was amazed at how many people she actually hugged. I was amazed that she spent so much time actually looking at each person and listening to their snippets of concerns.I was behind her and around her for almost the entire time watching, shooting, listening and saw grade school, high school and college kids come to tell her stories and each one, she hugged, listened to and thanked.

As a local event, there was a band playing comprised of four women in their 50s and some people dancing and at the back of the room, a local children’s organization that had won a local trophy. After a long period of working through the people who wanted to talk to her, she made her way to the kids who were dancing and playing around. In a sea of blue t-shirts (their organization’s shirts), she high fived them and then someone organized them for a photograph. Afterwards, a girl who looked about 15, greeted her and they had a small discussion for several minutes. Her focus was entirely on that girl.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may be a symbol of a new Democratic Party, or of Democratic Socialism. She may be feared for her outspokenness by all parts of the Republican Party, the Conservative media or even more moderate Democrats. Her proposals may be derided by established voices on the Right, but over the course of three hours, I had the opportunity to see, and understand, why she got elected, what makes her effective and how beloved she is by the people who elected her. The level of her caring and connection with people who she SHOULD be caring for, and fighting for and representing, runs extremely deep.


Yes, she’s a freshman representative from a small part of both New York and the country, but she is facing people who don’t answer their phones, won’t meet with local, state or national constituencies, who hide both from criticism and support. Who’s sole goals are to make money, and make money faster. And make more money. They don’t have time for constituents either on the right, nor the left. For far too many politicians, it is simply, and solely, the Art of the Deal.

Birth of a Nation

Birth of a Nation: The Colony, The Territory, The State

“Incapable of self-government”


Verve Observation

by Phillip Wong

    “Porto Rico differs radically from any other people for whom we have legislated previously . . . they have no experience which would qualify them for the great work of government with all the bureaus and departments needed by the people of Porto Rico.

Said Republican Senator Joseph B. Foraker in a speech before the United States Senate in 1900.

In another speech before Congress in 1900, Senator William B. Bates (D-TN) who had served in the Confederate Army said:


“ What is to become the Philippines and Porto Rico? Are they to become states with representation here from those countries, from that heterogeneous mass of mongrels that make up their citizenship? That is objectionable to the people of this country, as it ought to be, and they will call a halt to it before it is done.           Jefferson was the greatest expansionist. But neither his example nor his precedents affords any justification for expansion over territory in distant seas, over peoples incapable of self-government, over religions hostile to Christianity, and over savages addicted to head-hunting and cannibalism, as some of these islanders are.”

   These views made in the United States Congress, at Puerto Rico’s inclusion into the United States sphere of influence were the backdrop of how Puerto Rico would be governed by the United States Congress for the next 117 years.

   These were not unique or shocking views as the 1800s passed into another century in America. But they create a perspective to how our views shaped a nation, a foreign policy, politics and an economy that echoes through our society today.

   They neither affirm, nor excuse, how we look at problems today, an economy today, or the environment and in context of tomorrow. But we can neither continue, nor embrace, nor adjust our actions today to maintain these views in the future. 

The easiest thing to change in our world, is our minds. The hardest thing to change in our world, is our minds. It is up to us.

A New World


             The New World was explored and discovered from 1400 through 1900 by European explorers seeking gold, glory and a foothold for a Christian god. Asia and Africa were already known by traders and crusaders for centuries, but the sea was a possible new path. Portugal, Spain, France, the Netherlands and England were the sponsors of exploration, and their explorers claimed new lands for their sponsors.



                     Puerto Rico was considered to have been the land discovered by Columbus when he first landed in the New World. He claimed Puerto Rico for Spain in 1492 and for the next two centuries, Spain was a dominant nation in global exploration and development. When Columbus landed, the indigenous people of Puerto Rico were Taino, but they, like many native peoples, perished from European borne diseases, warfare and slavery. Puerto Rico remained a Spanish colony from 1492 until 1898.

From Spain to the United States


          Following the end of the Spanish-American War, in the Treaty of Paris in 1898, Puerto Rico was transferred from a territory of Spain, to a territory of the United States.  Other Spanish territories involved in this transfer were Guam and Philippines. In the transfer, Puerto Ricans lost their Spanish citizenship but did not become American citizens.


              For the first 50 years, legislation created pertaining to Puerto Rico was written by the United States Congress and administered by appointed governors and officials to benefit American corporate interests. Following the creation of the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950, Puerto Rico was able to elect its own governor, legislative and judicial bodies, but all was subject to approval by the United States Congress. And American disapproval could negate any Puerto Rican decision.


            In act after act of legislation, throughout Puerto Rico’s history, it becomes apparent from the timing and wording, which industries, which corporations and which country, and for which purposes, Congressional legislation was meant to benefit.

Territory, Commonwealth, Colony, Independence, State
                 For 100 years, Puerto Rico has remained in American limbo, as the decision on whether to be granted (and to accept) statehood, independence, commonwealth status has been debated and voted on both by Puerto Ricans and the American Congress.     
                  Puerto Rico came into American hands believing it would be granted independence from Spanish rule. Cuba was struggling for independence when America entered into war with Spain on their behalf. Spain granted Cuba independence at the time of ceding Puerto Rico , Philippines and Guam to the United States. Puerto Rico had just elected a parliament (a right which Spain had granted to both Cuba and Puerto Rico) that was meeting the day America declared war on Spain.              
                   The perception of the American Congress, and American businesses to Puerto Rico, is vastly different than the perception of Puerto Ricans to America (and there is always a difference between people on the street and governing bodies). Americans have viewed Puerto Rico in a transactional prism – how can our businesses and economy benefit from this island while paying some of the bills?
                     Puerto Rico’s government is largely funded by U.S. Congressional grants. They work for the United States Congress, less so, for the people of Puerto Rico, and people in Puerto Rico view their government as inherently corrupt. But as we examine the political history and the economic consequences of this anomaly, the Puerto Rican government has in a large way, acted as a Chamber of Commerce, rather than an independent three bodies (executive, legislative and judicial), serving the people of Puerto Rico.
              The people of Puerto Rico have largely seen themselves as Americans, but different. They see themselves as having the same rights and responsibilities as people on American soil, but unless they ARE on American soil, they don’t have American rights or protections. It is a nonsensical existence in a modern world.

A Land of Sugar, A Land of Labor


           From 1900 through the 1930s, American political rule and economic development was aimed at creating an American agricultural sugar industry on Puerto Rico.


            The first appointed governor was Charles Herbert Allen who was installed in 1900 and governed for 18 months before leaving for New York. On arrival in New York, he joined the Morgan bank and then starting the American Sugar Refining Company in 1901. In those initial 18 months, he set the stage for Puerto Rican dependency on the United States that continues today.


               In 1899, a year after Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States from Spain, Hurricane San Ciriaco struck and destroyed the island’s coffee crop. Puerto Rican farmers received no relief funds, instead the Hollander Act was passed by Congress with Allen’s guidance, to create a land tax on farmers who had no means to pay the tax. U.S. banks provided the loans to cover the taxes with usury rates. When Puerto Ricans couldn’t pay the loans and interest rates, the Sugar Trust (American Sugar Refining Company – now known as Domino Sugar), purchased the land by paying the banks.

Legislation by the United States Congress


                The Foraker Act of 1900, passed by the United States Congress, allowed for the governorship, Executive Council and Supreme Court all to be appointed by the United States president. Puerto Ricans could elect a lower house. But the purpose was to prohibit Puerto Rico from negotiating trade agreements with any foreign country. It prohibited tariffs or import/export regulations. By 1930, 94% of trade was with the United States, and with American goods sold in Puerto Rico roughly 15% higher than the same goods sold on American soil, a budgetary imbalance was created that exists today.

               In 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act was passed authorizing a Puerto Rican government to collect taxes on property and internal revenue. Passed on March 02, 1917, it also made Puerto Ricans, American citizens. The passage of this act served multiple purposes: while it created a form of government similar to the United States, and allowed officials to be elected locally, it also any legislation passed by Puerto Ricans could be vetoed by the Governor and President of the United States and the United States Congress maintained control over all fiscal and economic matters. Congress exercised control over mail services, immigration, defense, foreign trade agreements and import/export. Essentially, it allowed Congressional members grant favors to their cronies to loot Puerto Rico if they so desired. Also, as newly minted American citizens, once America entered World War I a month later (April 6, 1917), it allowed Puerto Ricans to be drafted into the American military. They served in segregated military units.

            In 1920, the Merchant Marine Act (also known as the Jones Act, although, in relation to Puerto Rico is often confused with the Jones-Shafroth Act) was created to establish a Merchant Marine for the United States. But a Section 27, was included to deal with cabotage (the carrying of goods transported between U.S. ports). This section of the Jones bill, mandates that all goods transported between U.S. ports must be carried by American constructed, owned, operated, crewed ships. While this is not a problem for the transport of goods between Kansas and Missouri, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska are affected, and since much of America is continental, America does not have a large number of shipping companies that transport between “local” traffic areas.

American Citizenship for Puerto Rico.


The Jones-Shafroth Congressional Act in March 1917 assigned American citizenship to all Puerto Ricans. In April of 1917, America entered World War I, and 20,000 newly minted Puerto Rican-Americans were conscripted to fight.

Life of a Nation

Life Of A Nation

Black Panther Claws Up

Black Panther Claws Up


by Camille Gaston

Verve Art

Much like the Vibranium that was hurled from space by a meteorite and
deposited on Wakanda, making it the most technologically advanced nation in the
Marvel Universe, the Black Panther movie hits the Hollywood landscape exactly the
same way. It’s a definite smash, and the film’s gift to Hollywood is that it stands as a
new standard of black on-screen representation.

Directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther tells the story of T'Challa, played by
Chadwick Boseman, who after the death of his father, returns home to the African
nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. As the new king and Black Panther, 
he is met with conflict by opposing forces that put Wakanda and the whole
world at risk. He teams up with his former girlfriend, Nakia played by Lupita Nyong’o, 
his little sister, Shuri, the Wakandan special forces, and a CIA agent to defeat the 
enemies and protect the people.In this production, Ryan presents us with fresh 
looks at strong black femalecharacters such as Shuri, whose power is being the 
smartest person in the world,played by Letitia Wright, and a woman cinematographer 
giving us the lens, RachelMorrison, who also worked with Coogler on Fruitvale Station. 
Black Panther is an action adventure that takes you on a journey where you explore 
many themes like family, love, ancestry, honor, loyalty, can goon and on. 
But it seems to touch on these elements flawlessly- elements whenperfectly combined, 
create that magic moviegoers naturally want to experience. Onthe talk show The View , 
Boseman expressed that “it works to have a black cast, itworks that our stories can resonate…
”Among the themes I mentioned, the prevailing message in Black Panther seems to be 
this question: How can Wakanda be so rich in resources but it allows other black people, 
in the world outside of Wakanda, suffer? This is Erik Killamonger’s thought, played by Michael B. Jordan. 
Throughout the film, othercharacters also voice political viewpoints, which sharply reflects the current 
social climate in America right now. This film will make some wonder where Africa or other continents 
with rich natural resources would have been today had they not been colonized.It’s a blatant defiance 
to the Hollywood norm, but Ryan Coogler brilliantly finds a way to tell a superhero story while making 
some strong statements. The filmultimately comes across as palpable for everyone, regardless of the race of 
the person watching the film. 
After walking out of the theater, you can’t help but feel like history 
is actually being made in Hollywood.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in July 1966, Black Panther 
was the first black superhero published by a major comics publisher.

Kudos to Marvel.In the following articles I will be discussing the 
film’s elements in a more in-depth look. Stay tuned!

What Is Art?

What Is Art?

Verve Art

  Art is broken down into several distinct areas: fine arts, applied arts and decorative arts and crafts, but there are various elements that come into play with each of these elements, and there are elements that cross over all elements.


    Fine Arts

Fine arts is a category that evolves with everything over time – but essentially, fine arts usually has no practical or immediate use for anyone other than the creator. BUT, it has tremendous value because it, theoretically, is a pure form of intellectual or emotional exploration of a singular point of view.

  All arts share certain values of coherency, complexity, unity and truth. The closer an artists comes to achieving those elements, the higher the quality of art. I used to say that “great art is great thought, or great heart,” and “good art is good thought, or good heart.” The craft of fashioning that thought, or heart only comes into play if the artist is incapable of conveying either thought or heart to the medium which they are using.


  These are not random criteria invented yesterday, but have been considered and explored by centuries of artists and critics from Aristotle’s Poetics, to E,M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, to Charles Baudelaire in the 19th century throughout time. Verve Fashion Magazine was created with the timeline of fashion, beauty and art, in mind.

  Charles Baudelaire wrote “criticism should be partial, impassioned, political— that is to say, formed from an exclusive point of view, but also from a point of view that opens up the greatest number of horizons”. And that “the true painter, will be he who can wring from contemporary life its epic aspect and make us see and understand, with color or in drawing, how great and poetic we are in our cravats and our polished boots”.

  I have a background in literature and photography, so these are areas I look to, but I see “Art” expanding to other areas as well, so we will highlight those areas.


Applied Arts


  From the 1960’s to 1980’s in America, there was a heightened awareness of art, but no real awareness of how it’s value impacted society and the world. Then, in the 1980’s with Ronald Reagan’s America, we began a slow steady decline in dampening and diminishing art.


  Art can not, and does not exclusively come from an organizational sense – but larger forms of art – architecture, urban development, civic statues and murals, plays and film – needed the reality of money, to develop, grow and flourish. While governmental support eroded, corporate and commercial support expanded – by necessity.

  While every Conservative rails about the importance of the individual vs. society, the importance of the individual voice is lost in the wilderness. There are millions and millions of individual voices online in blogs, and comments everywhere, but the application of coherency, unity, truth and complexity is often missing.


  Many people think to themselves: “I am not an artist, therefore I can not judge.” Or “I am not a scientist, and therefore I don’t know.” Wrong.  There are parts of our world that are too big, or small , that we can not see. There are parts of our world that we have no experience with, or have not come into contact with – but our experience in life, brings us into contact with SOMETHING that connects, and with that, we can see the essence of Truth. That essence allows the artist to connect with the audience, and the audience to connect with the artist.


  The true greatness of an artist comes with their ability to bring vast, and complex truths to all of us. To present us with a reality which we recognize in our own, individual worlds. The greatness in music, in dance, in poetry – sometimes forms in which connections to our world are not obvious or evident, confuse those who do not have the time or patience to fully watch or listen, or understand. And these are also areas, in which the artistry of others – to see, to feel, to understand and communicate, becomes much more important.


  Applied art, in architecture, can be four walls. Or it can be a useless design, or a useful design. It can be a comment on the world, the elements, on privacy or public displays of a private world. But once we begin to create art that demands resources, (money, manpower, tools, supplies), we have an obligation to those we ask much of, to create something that returns.


  My father was an architect. He studied and worked for 17 years with Mies van der Rohe, who was the Dean of the Architectural department at Illinois Institute of Technology, but had also been the last director of Bauhaus in Germany between the first and second World Wars. Mies coined the phrase “Less is More,” and the other lion of architecture at that time was Frank Lloyd Wright, who coined the phrase, “Form follows Function.”


  I gravitated toward those ideals, and my photography has elements of both – which is why I see “Fashion,” and “Photography,” as having an importance. But commercially, I also see how our communications have evolved and changed because of MTV and Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, Jay-Z and on, and on, and on.


  The Arts of the world, affect and guide our world. It comments and explores our need for individualism, and our connection to the societies in which we live. But without the essential elements of coherency, complexity, unity and truth, we are just geniuses sitting alone in our closets talking to ourselves and anyone else equally removed from reality.


  Art IS the essence of reality. Even in fiction, the essential truth connects with children, centuries and across cultural and linguistic lines. 


  Great art has the ability to be commercially viable. Why? Simply because it seizes on a truth that others recognizes. Why is our freedom of speech so valuable? Because it constantly allows and encourages the views of individuals to explore and seek expression that may, or may not, be recognized by others. And why are platforms like this one (Verve Fashion Magazine) important? Because our goal is not primarily commercial, but primarily to serve as a platform for truth.


  Fashion that simply seeks money, has a short lifetime. Just as books, or music, or the plays without essential truths, have limited lifetimes. Art NEEDs essential truths, to last and define a culture, a time, and a people. But while women might complain that a design is not wearable, not all comment needs to be, nor should be, “wearable.” And the support of designers creating “wearable” pieces, and the responsibility of designers to comment on the world around them is as real today as it has been in the works of Coco Chanel, Rudi Gernreich, and the women who wear them (and define their world) like Twiggy, Cindy Crawford and Iman.


  We don’t ask writers at the New York Times or Washington Post to be “creative,” just as we didn’t ask J.R.R. Tolkien to explain nuclear options. And for that, I would look at fashion in similar ways – as expressions of integration, exploitation, explanation, and comment on our times, the people who wear them, as well as possible utilities in our everyday lives.



Design and Decorative Art


  We are drawn to patterns, to organization and at the same time, the randomness of nature. These are seemingly conflicting, but historically, the patterns or the search for pattern in nature is repeated throughout various cultures and through centuries.

The search for subject matter, pattern and themes vary from culture to culture, but the way design and decorative art are constructed are similar.

  Eastern decorative art avoids god or human reproductions, but western art seeks meaning and from depth, breadth and scope. It can be argued that religious art is decorative, or applied, but we put centuries old pieces into museums and somehow categorize it as “fine.”

I used to field discussions about the value of modern (pop, rock n’ roll, jazz and hip-hop) as being of little value compared to “the old stuff.” But reminding people that Vivaldi, Bela Bartok, and Mozart, all borrowed heavily from folk tunes of that period of time. Everything comes from somewhere, and whether the work is decorative, applied or fine, the inception all comes from thought and emotion. But whether the quality of structure, pattern, unity, complexity and cohesion is what makes any artistic work carry from one moment to another and one century to the next.

Eyes Of A Nation

Photography/Text (except credited otherwise)/Creative Concept: Phillip Wong
Make-up/Hair - Visual Concept: Sareen Bhojwani
Make-up for this project sponsored by FACE Stockholm
Make-up/Hair on Charlene Ortiz: Amanda Diaz
Models: Danique Blaauwendraad (Supreme NY)
              : Fernanda Albanesi (Fashion Model, Milano) 
              : Marcelle Mazzini (Anthem Management NY)
              : Marie Vilanova
              : Charlene Ortiz (Models by WM)